Archive for the ‘Learning to Think and Work Symbolically’ category

Images of Self: Dream Time Encounters with Robert Bly

January 7, 2022

In recognition of Robert’s passing late last year, I will be posting a series of big dreams from my work with Robert and the mytho-poetic gatherings of men he inspired and fed so well. For me, these dreams helped bring me into a more conscious relationship with the Self (see Edinger on the ego-Self axis). In recognition of the Jung’s spirited and courageous engagement with the unconscious through his Black Book journals, I will also be posting some of my active imagination transcripts (AI). This is in alignment with my belief that sharing these dream + AI offerings, straight up without interpretation, has value. I would welcome the opportunity to post some of your Robert Bly dreams here. The most recent of the manifestly (as in Robert shows up as a recognizable figure) Robert Bly dreams came the week before I was to begin a six session series of Embodied Dreaming group sessions conducted by Kimberly Christensen as part of her doctoral work. Here is the dream:

Dream 10.12.19 5:47 AM Timeless Robert Bly & Flying/Arriving

“Lengthy dream sequence ended with me catching up with my wife waiting for me at an outside table at a small restaurant on the ground floor, inner courtyard space of multiple storied, huge, sophisticated department store-like building in New York, or? We had become separated working our way down from the upper floors (4th?) when I took flight, without really giving her notice, literally stepping out into space and slowly flying, exploring, descending in this huge open space, which allowed me to see vast amounts as I dropped down.

Just before, having landed in a different corner of the complex, a black, grey, slightly shadowy corner with a lovely water/nature feature by a descending stairway, I encountered a very old but exceedingly spry, slow moving man, who was walking towards me, having just come down the stairs from a balcony; he was wearing greys and light and deep purples, elegant clothing, sophisticated, timeless, wild hair barely shorn, aristocratic, and, like himself, Robert Bly, with a rock star touch of Rod Stewart; and he looked at me and had this impish smile, and we both slowly passed each other; and I said “not bad!” in a low key, trickster way of acknowledging the impact of his startling presence and his carrying something quite amazing and special. He smiled back at me; we kept walking, and then both slowly turned back for second looks, and I was thinking, ‘No, you/I didn’t need to say “It’s me, Chuck.” We both know who we are. We go way back; how delightful to find him so alive and well, so vital, here, in a cultural/business center.

As I continued up the stairs, a procession of people, all much younger, were slowly coming down the stairs. This seemed to be his group; they were breaking for lunch or something like that; they seemed bright, interested, interesting; men and women; I paused on a short section, against the railing just outside of the opening, and one woman came nearer, stopped; we looked at each other intently, softly; she was very attractive to me; her gaze held me; I sensed she was/would be a very lovely person/lover. Tracking their arrival, coming down the stairs, I put Robert with this group; he, the elder. I had the thought “Oh, this is where Robert has been spending his time; sitting with, being available to this group of next generation creative types; as in, the work goes on, even when unseen; this is where he has been working away, out of the limelight.”

Realizing this corner of the lower level was not where Karyl was, I turned to flying again and negotiated a slow, swooping crossing of the large atrium, dropping down to the ground floor of the atrium, and I spotted her at the restaurant; I walked over to her, coming up behind her, and I could see she seemed a bit upset, and I assumed it was because I had lost track of her, become separated unintentionally, in choosing to glide down/explore. The chair next to her, my place, had a beautiful, circle of large whole tomatoes and vegetable salad plate; her plate, right next to mine, was different but equally elegant; I sensed she was sad, tearful, hurt about me having my disappearance/vanishing?; I said something like “Oh, there/here you are! How lovely, and you ordered for me…as I took my seat. I was aware, and surprised, at my having avoided acknowledging her upset directly.

Before all of that, several other scenes within the same huge interior space, with lots of levels and all kinds of shops, stuff going on; I had been walking along an upper level sidewalk with a man I happened to meet, happily, a patient I felt close to in his interest in bringing his soulful life review to our meetings; we both had experienced psychotic mothers and not helpful enough fathers. We had a bit of a twinship transference going around appreciating each other’s choices in comfortable, classic clothing. His round of work was a meeting with many tears, together, over a number of years.”

I often note any waking reflections (WR) that come to me as I capture/record a dream. I didn’t record any at the time, but I remember immediately connecting with feeling delighted that such a vivid dream would show up at just such a time when I was looking for the dream I would bring to the embodied dream group experience; thinking, this is it; wow.

My next journal entry at 8:57 PM, on the same day, opens with “Time for re-entry and dialogue.” I will post this active imagination experience separate from the dream itself.

And, I must say, it is really difficult to not try to offer some additional information about the dream. In recognition of the category of dream-time-encounters-with-Self, the dream embodiment group process provided a wonderful opportunity to re-enter the moment, in the dream, when Robert and I turned back for second looks. This is the image I want to track through a number of dreams. There is also the compelling experience of how flying works for me in my dreams…

But for now, I want to get more dream material on the table.

Donald Kalsched: on …”When the relational environment … fails … to provide “good enough” attunement and empathic responsiveness for the growing baby”

November 9, 2021

It has been a while since I’ve posted any of my musings! Here is one more source quote with a few very important ideas and conceptualizations. Enjoy.

“Object-relations theory and interpersonal theory provide the best understanding of how trauma develops but, missing a grasp of the self-curative capacities of the psyche’s inner world, they do not adequately envision the healing of trauma that comes about through other than personal resources. The self-care system comes about as a result of acute or chronic failure by the relational environment to provide “good enough” attunement and empathic responsiveness for the growing baby. Trauma occurs when this “failure” falls outside what Winnicott calls the “area of omnipotence,” by which he means experience the baby can make sense of or “metabolize” within its own tolerance-limits or its own nascent symbolic capacity. Events that fall outside this area are “unbearable” or “unspeakable” and constitute nothing short of “madness,” by which Winnicott means literally a “breakdown” of infancy that cannot be remembered and around which the growing child (with the aid of primitive defenses) must erect a false self, like a tree growing around an absent center hollowed out by a lightning strike.

This sobering and compelling story about the effects of early trauma represents a partial truth, but it is not the whole story. There is something essential that Winnicott leaves out of his completely interpersonal metapsychology, namely, the “nonhuman environment” outwardly (Searles, 1960), and the “prehuman environment” inwardly, in other words, the archetypal layer of the psyche (Jung). The child is not just in relationship to the mother, but to the “world” beyond and the “world” within—poised, as it were, between two great, beautiful and terrible mysteries. It is the mother’s job to help mediate these Titanic realities. Without the mother’s “good enough” mediation, the child will be exposed to these inner and outer beauties/terrors and this will inevitably lead to traumatic symptoms in relationship, for example, unresolved omnipotence and grandiosity, insecure/disorganized attachment, and so forth.

But the child will not necessarily be “mad.” The Self Care System (SCS) will come to its rescue, and this system will recruit the archetypal powers of inner and outer Nature in its “effort” to save the child’s spirit – its core of health. The many myths that retell the story of children being abandoned and exposed but rescued by transpersonal powers or wild animals record the “saving” miracle by the SCS (Otto Rank). True, without an adequate human relationship to mediate “psyche and the world” the traumatized child will have life-long difficulties in intimacy with others. Born of broken attachment bonds, its SCS will not allow it to trust a process of reattachment with others for fear of retraumatization. But the self that grows around these limitations will not necessarily be a “false” self and may in fact be more creative than mad, perhaps with a rich inner world, a privileged access to “non-ordinary reality,” a deep cultural life, and a huge passion for a capacity for life. In the language of Jerome Bernstein, these individuals will occupy a “Borderland” between the worlds rather than be “Borderline” personality disorders (Bernstein, 2005).”

“Working with Trauma in Analysis,” by Donald E. Kalsched, PP. 281-295, from Jungian Psychoanalysis: Working In The Spirit of C.G. Jung, Edited by Murray Stein

Waking Reflections on the Great Fish, Loss of Identity, and Meeting the Father of the River Dream

March 23, 2021

Comment: Here are my waking reflections (WR) recorded when I woke up after the dream posted just below (see Close Encounters of the Dream Kind: Battling the Leviathan and Meeting the Father of the River). My practice in recording dreams when I wake up with one is to find a low light space and just begin writing as fast as I can in order to capture as much of the detail, energy and flow as possible. I care about being able to read what I’ve written later(!), but try not to worry about punctuation or spelling at all; I just keep writing and try to record everything that comes into my head, in the timing it comes. I am recalling I believe Jeffrey Raff’s description of Jung recommending this fast writing as a way to support greater access to these communications from the dream time. This is as if a spontaneous active imagination experience, as the ego is involved in sorting and making sense of this somewhat altered state.

Waking Reflections: when I first sat down to write, I was struck with the question of what happened beneath the surface! Popping back up naked and and in a state, in a public place, was uncomfortable, but strangely secondary to the real action. I had a vague sense of apprehensiveness about the possibility this dream be alerting me to the fact the I wasn’t able to land an important fish in my life, and, I lost my identity in the process to boot… and, and, a part of me has been dazed and confused since? Questions about who was the fisher person, in the world versus anima or an inner lover figure drifted through my head. How was it that I was in the position I was in, as if perched on the little craggy island between the channels, and, alert to possibility of diving in after the rod and reel instantaneously? feeling … when it came to describing the scene with the elder who seemed to live on the riverbank, looking after the cache, the name that popped vividly directly into my head was Father of the River, He who has his station of ancient order along the banks of the wildly abundant river, where the fish are mythological Leviathans. The opposites of order and wildness felt very important. Who is this Father of the River in relationship to me, my work. My strong sense being he was/is the deep guide to all my work, the elder, the wise old man, the Father of the River, in psyche, guiding me, Chuck, in relationship to the river of life, emotion, life flow, and all the abundance in psyche, nature, and the work of becoming conscious. He understands being a part of nature and the ways that as humans we cannot control or dominant elemental energies through force.

When recording this dream, Behemoth first came to mind; in researching a bit, it seemed Leviathan would be more appropriate. For now, it seems most accurate to say it was a very large, salmon like fish. In the dream action, I was decidedly pulled under by it and experienced complete amnesia for what happened beneath the surface. *In posting this today, with regards to these initial associations, I would like to do some research about the Leviathan, to see what the spiritual and historical record can contribute; it’s always a question of time and priority.

Before sharing one more vivid association to the last scene, being invited into talk to the keeper of the cache, I want to say my next post here will be my active imagination process in search of answers to the question what happened when I was pulled under?

One more complicated association towards the end of my recording this dream was a dream and the timing of meeting Doug Von Koss while attending a week long men’s mytho-poetic gathering in the Mendocino Woodlands. After waking up about 4:30 AM with a powerful Eye fetish dream, spending an hour outside in the moon light in a round of very powerful waking dream embodiment, I had just finished a pen, ink, and watercolor picture capturing the vividness of the image, when I heard someone singing, slowly working their way down the path leading up to the lodge where I was sitting, alone, with my painting. Doug, on a mission to get a cup of tea, walked right up to me. He took one long look at me, my freshly painted image, and said “something’s happened.” He then invited me to find a time later to tell him all about it. And, to my surprise, suggested if I would like him to paint it on my forehead on the day of the planned major ritual, this was something he could do for me. This was very much like the river elder inviting me into his realm to hear my story. He then also invited me to join his small group of men who would be offering the morning wake up chant for each of the cabins. This ritual became an important part of my waking to world each. How lovely…

Close Encounters of the Dream Kind: Battling the Leviathan and Meeting the Father of the River

March 19, 2021

Author note: Keeping a dream journal is a wonderful major step to beginning to pay attention to our depth. I have been pondering posting more dreams with their active imagination (AI) dialogue transcripts for some time. In my excitement to be diving into Jung’s Black Books, see post below, and witnessing his process, and his courage, I feel compelled to post more of my own close encounters of the dream kind. While one could make the case that dreams without specific personal life context can only be lacking, the burden of connecting the dots with one’s intimate life and work is great. In the spirit of all creative processes, and embodiment, it seems dream offerings and active imagination dialogues, from/with psyche, can stand alone. Might we give them that respect? I am deeply curious about what could come out of such an (limited) engagement with you, fellow dreamers. May we experiment with bearing embodied witness together in celebration of psyche? Let the images and affects, the energies and the mysteries speak for themselves!

Dream: Encountering the Leviathan and Meeting the Father of the River

April 10, 2020 4 AM: awakened with a big dream: Bank side of powerful river within a developed almost city like park, I recognize a medical staff person, like a hospital nurse I know; she/we are comfortable and collegial, and chat briefly; I see she has a very long fishing rod and reel set up and is ready to cast out into the water upstream; I am, have been, standing on what seems to be a rocky island like outcropping, with just enough height to block one’s view of the right bank, just off the left bank where she is; I am looking upstream from my rocky perch, which is running parallel to the current, with the larger flow and deeper channel to my right. I see her hook a huge 12-16 foot long fish! It strikes and jerks her off the bank and into the water flowing through the left channel of the outcropping, and I see that she can’t hold onto the rod and reel, and in an instant, I realize if I just dive into the water from my rocky observation point I might be able to snag the rod and hold onto the fish; I do and sure enough I am just able to grab it as it goes banging, and flying by; I am now being pulled into the deep water in the channel on the right side of the island. I can’t think about how I’m going to hold onto the fish, only that I have a chance to save the gear and the catch …

For a brief moment, I am being pulled under towards the opposite shore; I feel strong and hopeful, not worried about drowning, but really, just totally engaged, and then … poof, it’s over and I am crawling out of the river, naked, somewhat disoriented, and I have no idea what happened to the fish, the gear, my clothes. I am looking around trying to orient myself to the bank, others, only slightly distracted by the fact of my nakedness; I see her, stunned, and throw up my arms as if to say “wow!” Then I became aware of the loss of my wallet and everything else usually in my pockets, ID, credit cards, phone, and begin to want to find something to put it on and find out what happened to my clothes. Did anyone see the action? See what happened? I seem to be amazing or a problem for some who are just trying to do there usual daily business. I see what seems to be a group of wait staff setting up a buffet honoring dinner with well-dressed people being seated in a riverside hall like garden area. I am/feel way out way out of sync with this group!

Then I find myself on the opposite side of the river, along the deep channel, walking downstream, south along the east river bank and I discover a hidden from view storage area, with closets, clothes rods, and a cache of well preserved, boiled wool and other heavy duty fishing/fishing boat, navy surplus type gear and I feel hopeful “this is where my stuff will show up, in salvage.” I am taking a close look when a ruggedly dressed-for-the-elements, ancient mariner type man confronts me with what am I doing here? While initially stern and guarded/protective, I get his attention and he directs me to step into a nearby place to talk; I start with pouring out my recounting of what happened, how I found myself, there, just now… about the amazing fish, like the ones known to be in this river… I remembered having seen others this big; I sense he knows everything about this river, this station along the banks of this river; he will be the key… I woke up. It was 4 AM.

Waking reflections: In honoring the dream itself, I am holding back on my reflections for this post for now.

I will follow this dream up with my active imagination process dedicated to trying to find out what did happen when I was pulled under?

Jung on Active Imagination

March 16, 2021

I am enjoying a seminar with THE SALOME INSTITUTE of JUNGIAN STUDIES on Jung’s newly published Black Books (BB). The course is guided by the institute’s director, Satya Doyle Byock, and astrologist Carol Ferris. Seems we’re off to a great start!

Working in depth to understand Jung’s process of self experimentation, as it informed his birthing of analytical psychology, offers an up close look at our own journeys. I hope to be bringing forward key concepts in support of all who dare to consciously deepen in relationship to the unconscious.

Here is Sonu Shamdasani, the primary editor, commenting on Jung’s approach to active imagination: “In December 1913, (Jung) referred to this first Black Book as the ‘book of my most difficult experiments.’ In retrospect, he recalled,

‘my scientific question went: what would happen if I switched off consciousness? I noticed from dreams that something stood in the background, and I wanted to give this a fair chance to come forward. One submits to the necessary conditions – as is in a mescaline experience – so that it emerges.’ (BB, Volume I, p. 24)

“Jung described his technique for inducing spontaneous fantasies: ‘The training consists first of all in systematic exercises for eliminating critical attention, thus producing a vacuum in consciousness.’ One commenced by concentrating on a particular mood and attempting to become as conscious as possible of all fantasies and associations that came up in connection with it. The aim was to allow fantasy free play, but without departing from the initial affect in a free-associative process. This led to a concrete or symbolic expression of the mood, which had the result of bringing the affect nearer to consciousness, hence making it more understandable. Merely doing this could have a vitalizing effect. Individuals could draw, paint, or sculpt, depending on their propensities:

‘Visual types should concentrate on the expectation that an inner image will be produced. As a rule such a fantasy-image will actually appear – perhaps hypnagogically – and should be carefully noted down in writing. Audio- verbal types usually hear inner words, perhaps mere fragments or apparently meaningless sentences to begin with…. Others at such times simply hear their “other” voices…. still rarer, but equally valuable, is automatic writing, direct or with the planchette.’

Once these fantasies had been produced and embodied, two approaches were possible: creative formulation and understanding. Each needed the other, and both were necessary to produce the transcendent function, which arose out of the union of conscious and unconscious contents. 

For some people, Jung noted, it was simply to note the “other” voice in writing and to answer it from the standpoint of the I: ‘It is exactly as if a dialogue we’re taking place between two human beings…’ Dialogue led to the creation of the transcendent function, which resulted in a widening of consciousness. His descriptions of the use of inner dialogues and the means of evoking fantasies in a waking state match his own undertaking in the The Black Books…” (C.G. Jung, BB, Notebooks of Transformation, Volume I, Edited by Sonu Shamdasani, 2020, pp. 54-55)

Getting Started

September 1, 2020

How might we frame our depth work process approach?

Let’s open with an observation from Rumi:

“A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.”  Rumi poem translated by Coleman Barks

Orienting to my wordpress layout: In terms of how this blog offering works, note that if you click on an activated link, the link will take you either to the internet source, or quite often, to another one of my posts here. My pages are fixed and reserved for core components of the symbol system. The posts are listed below the pages, with the most recent on top. Below the posts are my selected Source quotes, which are simply posts consisting of direct quotes without much comment from me. When you click on any page, you go there; hit the back button to return to prior page, or, just return to the website to see the top page layout. The search function is helpful if you have a key word, such as “micro” as in micro-fracture, or partial as in partial cure; you can pull up a few postings on the theme and see which may be the best way into the conversation.

Back to Rumi: In this case, the observation from the Rumi poem is the opening of a post from me about this work. Please take a minute to go there and consider following up with the additional embedded links, to begin to orient to my processing focus.

Managing our power struggles: The immediate priority from my perspective is to consider that the ways we have been getting triggered and pulled into emotional conflicts are all part of our co-created system dedicated to enabling each other to try to maintain order and comfort when really something else is emerging. The concept of the blur, and the perspective healing only occurs in the blur is central to understanding the emotional charge in triggers here, and the importance of getting triggered.

We want to consider the possibility our hard work and dedication may be paying off, and as a reward, psyche is now offering an initiatory process which sets the ego up to be sacrificed. This is quite different from getting an unsolicited robo-call offering x-nights of free lodging at an exotic resort!

We are called to consider the meaning and impact of the possibility everything that has ever happened to us is entirely conscious now, but not to the ego

Jung’s concept of the ego-Self Axis is crucial to understanding the mid-life transition as an initiatory process. As Stein and Stein note in their excellent overview, what is needed is the art and science of maieutics – midwifery. It is a birth process: symbolically the ego must suffer a kind of death, in the service of a rebirth, enabling a new working relationship with what Jung called the Self, the deep center of conscious and unconscious life.

Really, what this is about, is a return to discovering and then re-connecting to our lost selves.

For this opening and true coming home to occur requires that we let down the very defenses that enabled us to survive our unique challenges. This means wrestling with our core character defenses. This is the partial cure problem. As children we find work arounds, but ultimately, these dissociation based defenses enable a core disconnect, which works against living life fully.

We can try to think about the idea that psyche, in psyche’s wisdom, has chosen a beloved who is sensitive and strong enough in just the right ways, to help us break down our defenses. Once we put them in place to help us become our true authentic selves, we fight like crazy to resist their best efforts. If we succeed in thwarting their sacred mission – which we unconsciously assigned them to take on in our behalf – there will be no wedding! The story reference here is we will not be able to achieve true self-other emotional intimacy until we recover our own.

For today, please take a close look at the partial cure link.

From Margret Atwood’s Surfacing: an image of the (radical) tear

June 25, 2020

After recently streaming a very compelling documentary on the life and work of Margaret Atwood – see Margaret Atwood: A Word after a Word after a Word is Power – I was moved to order a couple of her earliest books: Surfacing and The Edible Woman. Both have been very powerful reads. I was struck by her vivid description of having been cut in two:

“No hints of facts, I didn’t know when it had happened. I must have been alright then; but after that I’d allowed myself to be cut in two. Woman sawn apart in a wooden crate, wearing a bathing suit, smiling, a trick done with mirrors, I read it in a comic book; only with me there had been an accident and I came apart. The other half, the one locked away, was the only one that could live; I was the wrong half, detached, terminal. I was nothing but a head, or, no, something minor like a severed thumb; numb. At school they used to play a joke, they would bring little boxes with cotton wool in them and a hole cut in the bottom; they would poke their finger through the hole and pretend it was a dead finger.” (pp 108-109)

By the dates, Margaret published this when she was 42 or so. That seems about right in terms of psyche helping us realize we have experienced a significant disconnect which has required a partial cure work around. Seems like a lot of Donald Kalsched’s formulation on trauma, dismemberment, and re-memberment is present in this painful realization/reflection. I recently worked this from the perspective of recognizing the “tear that always shows.”

On that note, I have been pondering the relationship between tear (tare) and tear. ie: tear “…to rend (a solid material) by holding or restraining in two places and pulling apart, whether intentionally or not; to destroy or separate.” In contrast to: tear “…A drop of clear, salty liquid produced from the eyes by crying or irritation.”

Source: “…the important units of recall are the occasions of repeated interaction.”

June 25, 2020

The source quotes below are from The Journey of Child Development, Selected papers of Joseph D. Noshpitz. I appreciated his description of the layers of infant experiences which contribute to Daniel Stern’s conceptualization of representations of interactions that have been generalized (RIGs). The image of RIGS helps us understand the origins of what was presented to me as the nucleus of the experiential state: the composite scene/image of the episode(s), one’s self in relationship to the other, standing in for all the others, and the associated affect, as reflected in the totality of the expressions in the moment of impact.

Let’s hear now directly from Dr. Noshpitz:

“…let us turn our attention to actual details of the process of recall: what are the elements babies use to construct inner images? It is evident that one of the elements of experience that has particular valence for babies is the encounter with the significant other. For infants, this 3- to -9 month period is a time of extraordinary pressure toward socialization. Another way of saying that is to state flatly that during this interval all babies fall intensely, passionately, head over heals in love with their mommies. They cannot get enough of her; nothing means as much. They yearn for her when they do not have her at hand, light up when they see her, reach for her when she comes near, and crow when they touch her. Smiling has appeared, social smiling in response to other’s presence, with a special smile for the beloved mommy. Hence, in laying down memory traces, special emphasis should be given to these moments of intense interactive experience with the loved one as begetters of memories.

It is therefore not surprising that Stern suggests that the important units of recall are the occasions of repeated interaction. Thus, a feeding experience, a mother-infant play session, or some other such exchange between the two is the likeliest place to look for the groundwork of memory constructs. What happens then is that the interactions between the mother and infant become familiar; their quality is both anticipated and predictable. A feeding is a comparable sequence of positionings, holdings, lookings, sucklings, with a fairly standard pattern of overall conduct of self and other as the process continues. Babies lay down a memory trace of such an exchange, then add another of very similar character the next time, and then another, and yet another as time advances.

At this point, however, if Stern is correct, a remarkable thing happens. Babies begin to average out these experiences and to construct a model of how the experience should go. It were as though a generalized representation of the interaction emerged from the recurrent encounters, an image that can serve as a basis for predicting and judging the character of the next such encounter. Stern calls these representations of interactions that have been generalized RIGs). These RIGs are the building blocks of the core self, islands of consistency that form and coalesce out of the welter of infantile experience. They provide the basic material for constructing a sense of self as well as a sense of other.

It is my view that these early generalized representations are a unique and precious achievement to infants. In effect, each one is a work of art, a creation, their own rendering of a series of intense and valued experiences into a concentrated and succinct whole. There is a quality here of recording unifying it, distilling its essence and capturing its quality, and this, I believe, is central to the aesthetic encounter with a work of art, whether as creator or as viewer.

It is important to keep in mind the central role of these RIGs. They provide the bricks to build the mansion of the sense of self. They give infants the agency, the intensity, the coherence, and the continuity that together make for a continuing awareness of inner presence, inner integrity. They are dynamic presences, constantly undergoing small changes as each new experience is summed into the average, yet they are static in the sense of being repeats of the same kind of sequence over and over; this is what offers the sense of self the necessary stability and continuity and engenders the feeling of knowing one is there and who one is.” (pages 70-71)

As a conceptual tool, the experiential state gives us a way to think about our history as it contributes to our memory banks at the level of these RIGs. It seems our work in becoming conscious – recognizing enactments as blur moments – will involve connecting the dots between present day conflicts and our corresponding RIGs origin experiences.

To be continued.

 

 

 

Co-Created, Dissociation Enabled Enactments

February 7, 2020

I am bringing the post below to the top of the posting page to refresh/review some of the key concepts:

I’ve been working on integrating Philip Bromberg’s psychoanalytic based theory and practice into my symbol system, the heart of which is captured in the observation: healing only occurs within the blur.

To the extent this is true, we want to prepare ourselves to take advantage of emotional activations, as they signal opportunities for spontaneous healing entering or erupting into the everyday space. In my Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold post I make the case getting triggered pulls us, in the here and now, into an altered and altering state. Our shared blur experience, enabled by our co-created, dissociative defenses, facilitates a re-enactment of a wounding. We want to wake up in this moment together, and see if we can identify the elements of the self/other original experiential state scenes which are behind us getting triggered. Recall as long as they remain split off from and not fully inventoried by consciousness, these highly charged episodic memory based scenes are not diminished by time and space. These wounds of overwhelm experiences inform our invariant organizing principles and are stored in psyche’s black box so to speak, in their image and affect formats.

From the Bromberg/Bucci teachings, we want to begin to identify our ways of being. It seems the essential try on here is to be on the look out for enactments: emotional states and actions which, when examined, can be seen as manifestations of the subsymbolic mode of being. The critical point of this detail is what is stored in our bodies, split off from consciousness with the help of encapsulation defenses, can only find it’s way back into consciousness via unconscious, compulsive, emotionally laden actions. Such actions, however habitual and familiar to both parties, reflect, in the words of Alice Miller, our bodies presenting their bill: “The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Out intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our bodies tricked with medication. But some day the body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.” Note this is a different sound bite on Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score offering.

Enactments are typically organized at the level of body experience and make their presence known affectively. These are actions which are not entirely conscious at best; when observed and noted over time, one can see the core emotional patterns. For me, these are the experiential state complexes driving our co-created, dissociation enabled blur experiences. My image for this sphere of engagement is:

Co-created Tangle of Complexes: Yours and Mine

I believe Bomberg is clear about our need to engage with the subsymbolic mode, as the way to help bring it’s teachings, needs, into the symbolic mode, enabling conscious connection and reflection; finding words together for those experiences for which we had no words.

The concept of blur states recognizes our natural tendencies to want to put our best foot forward. It’s just that something gets triggered, putting us on a slippery slope, and we’re left with figuring out what just happened, is happening.

Jung used the concept of participation mystique to describe those experiences in a relationship experience reflecting a mutual level of unconsciousness.

For more on what psyche may be hoping to accomplish through blur enactments, see Observation: Healing Only Occurs within the Blur.

Enactments: Setting the table…together

January 11, 2020

In the post below, Enactments: Problem AND Solution? I brought forward some of Philip Bromberg’s observations on the meaning and role of enactments in work with trauma survivors. My Setting the table…together title is shorthand for the importance of our efforts to get our own enactment experiences out on the table, in a manner that is useful to the patient. When a rupture occurs, how we struggle together with the hidden meaning (recognizing the subsymbolic mode of being for the gift that it is, and working directly too bring it into the symbolic mode through our shared discovery process) is the work; yours and mine. When something disrupts/disallows our working this rupture/enactment through together, we will be unsettled as hell. How about them apples!

A part of this that I find so helpful, and so resonant with my interest in the meaning and implication/application of healing only occurs in the blur, is the emphasis on focusing on the emergence, via enactments, of the subsymbolic world.

Again and again Bromberg brings us back to the idea of one dissociative process conditions for another; the work is in our engagement with what shows up, palpably, in co-created dissociative enactments. For this to be fruitful, he suggests:

“During the analytic process, a main part of the analyst’s job is to find words to get his own experience of enacted communication out on the table in a manner that facilitates the patient’s ability to do the same….”

Furthermore, citing Levenson, Bromberg illustrates “…how the analyst’s being pulled into an enactment is not a technical error but an inevitability. (and) … how working one’s way out of the mess of an enactment is a core ingredient of therapeutic action, and how neither patient nor analyst can free himself from the grip of a “mess” without the others help.

Pause on that one: being pulled into an enactment is not a technical error but an inevitability. And: neither patient nor analyst can free himself from the grip of a “mess” without the others help.

Here we have direct support for privileging (my choice of words) the analyst’s efforts to find words for his/her/they own experience of enacted communication.

The idea of privileging the detail finding words to get his own experience of enacted communication out on the table is interesting from the legal sense of the word. It seems to point to an exemption. An exemption from best practices? We do take seriously our responsibility to maintain a conscious observing presence throughout our work with patients; at the same time, this direct support for acknowledging the presence of the subsymbolic layer, as manifested in tracking our enactments, yours and mine, seems to suggest having an active relationship with one’s own unconsciousness, in the service of meeting the patient in their subsymbolic experience, is a most critical component.

Given that, we could ask, would we be comfortable saying getting activated and submitting to a dissociation enabled co-created enactment is a component of best practice? The question is a bit of a puzzle. Perhaps the answer is: “by degrees.” If the therapist, or trainer, or organizational leader, or intimate partner, and so forth, slips into an intense moment of unconsciousness with an acting out component, for all who could see, to see, then what? My advocacy for thinking in blur terms conceptually, is the recognition the violation, as a betrayal of trust, is initiatory for the one on the receiving end of the enactment.

Recall I have suggested that in the absence of good enough ritual elders, traumas can be lived through, but remain essentially incomplete initiatory experiences. At some point, in the midlife or later, we need to open up this encapsulated, episodic memory centered trauma complex in order to re-integrate the split off material and thereby gain conscious wisdom in the ways of the world.

Importantly, perhaps more so if the originator of the wounding is in a leadership position, if the enactment is met with enough consciousness to help the originator get his own experience of enacted communication out on the table, this episode can be deeply initiatory for both/all participants. Given the relative primitiveness of these defenses, offending parties may not be able to use the resources available to surrender to the transformative opening, as John Perry observes in some happy moment. Clinically speaking, for the originator to resist direct participation in the working through is not a conscious choice. We bear witness, and contain the enactment as consciously as we can.

I prefer coding these episodes as re-enactments of the wounding in that the scene, when formulated into an experiential state image, points back to the entire relationship histories of both parties present in the action. That the trusted other presents not as her/they/his known self, but in a possessed state, can be shocking, stunning, deeply upsetting, infuriating, but, really, when I am triggered by anothers submitting to an enactment, pulling me in to add my fuel to the fire, I do want to look primarily at my vulnerability to being confused about what is really going on. This is what co-created means. If I can only focus on what the other did, in this real time moment, I will be stuck feeding the complex, and continue to suffer the re-traumatization of the wound that informed my trigger. Together we have reinforced enough intensity in the conflict between us to disallow either the opportunity to breathe and drop into the core. When one can see the core driving the enactment, one can begin to consider what type of conscious enactment, or portrayal, might enable a transformative shift.

Citing Levenson and Sullivan’s work, Bromberg suggests … “working in the moment with transference and counter-transference experience provides the most powerful context for therapeutic growth.”

“… The process of consensually finding the ‘right words,’ language that symbolizes a new shared reality, is the basis for the development of intersubjectivity where it did not exist... When patient and analyst can each access and openly share their dissociated experience that has been too dangerous to their relationship to be formulated cognitively, the process through which this takes place begins to enlarge the domain and fluency of the dialogue and leads to increasingly integrated and complex content that becomes symbolized linguistically and thus available to self-reflection and conflict resolution…”

“I thus argue that what has been labeled the analyst’s self revelation, if used as a negotiable element in the ongoing relationship, is not only permissible but also necessary: a part of the developmental process that Fonagy … calls mentalization, through which subsymbolic experience is allowed to become a part of the relational self rather than being interminably enacted. …”

“…the Boston group’s findings support the view that “process leads content, so that no particular content needs to be pursued; rather the enlarging of the domain and fluency of the dialogue is primary and will lead to increasingly integrated and complex content…”

On a side note, Christopher Bollas has written beautifully on the image of countertransference readiness. There are always two patients in the the consultation room: “… the other source of the analysand’s free association is the psychoanalyst’s countertransference, so much so that in order to find the patient we must look for him within ourselves. This process inevitably points to the fact that there are two ‘patients’ within the session and therefore two complementary sources of free association.”

These combination of observations, or what sound like core clinical truths, all point to the importance of finding a way to be present in the therapy in one’s own depth process, including what I am calling the blur.